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Davis Journal

Intermountain Central Laundry saves water while serving patients

Aug 24, 2023 08:35AM ● By Becky Ginos
Caregivers sort clean laundry and put it through automated machines that are ironed, folded and packaged to be delivered to 160 healthcare facilities across Utah. Photo by Becky Ginos

Caregivers sort clean laundry and put it through automated machines that are ironed, folded and packaged to be delivered to 160 healthcare facilities across Utah. Photo by Becky Ginos

NORTH SALT LAKE—In any given day or week most households do several loads of laundry. At the Intermountain Central Laundry facility they process 3,500 pounds of laundry in an hour. Between the two washers there that adds up to 7,000 pounds and 1.3 million pounds of laundry every month.

The Central Laundry, located in North Salt Lake, handles the cleaning of linens from 160 healthcare and hospital facilities all the way from Burley, Idaho to Delta, Utah.

“Not many health systems have central laundry facilities like we do and it’s proven to be a cheaper and more efficient way to handle this vital part of healthcare,” said Laura Thurston, operations manager at Intermountain Central Laundry. “When you process millions of pounds of laundry, even the slightest efficiencies can make a big difference in the number of resources used.”

In keeping with the effort to conserve water and protect the environment, Intermountain made upgrades of two industrial washing machines at the facility, saving millions of gallons of water.

The new machines were installed in May of 2022. According to Intermountain, after a year of use the machines saved more than 11 million gallons of water.

One of the main reasons for the efficiency is the washers’ ability to recycle water, said Thurston. “There are 13 washing machines that are all connected together. It’s a more concentrated wash that reduces water consumption and actually produces a cleaner result.”

The wash goes through its cycle and at the end a hydraulic press pushes water out of the clean laundry, she said. “It’s like the washer extractor you have at home. Then the water goes through a tube that brings it back into the first cycle.”

During the washing process, chemicals are added to disinfect the laundry, said Thurston. “It is also at a temperature that will kill any microbes. It goes through a process that brings the pH to neutral to avoid rashes and other conditions.” 

Blue bags filled with laundry go overhead on tracks. Photo by Becky Ginos

The Central Laundry started in 1979 and is the largest laundry in the state, Thurston said. “It was time to replace the other machines, they were 20 years old. Technology was the biggest factor to save water, create efficiency and be environmentally friendly given the water situation in Utah. The investment in just one year has saved 11 million gallons of water. Over 25 years that’s huge.”

There’s not just the washing process, she said. “The linens are ironed, folded and packaged by automation. There is no handling once it goes into the machine. You put it in and it comes out the other end.”

Then it’s loaded onto the trucks for delivery, said Thurston. “The bins used are sanitized to go back to the hospital where they are loaded up with soiled laundry to come back and then go through the same cycle. It’s staged by the hospitals and sorted into categories.”

There are two sides of the laundry, the clean side and the soiled side. Large blue bags filled with soiled laundry go on tracks overhead to the washing machines and the clean laundry goes to the other side where it is processed. “The blue bags are made of resin which is recyclable,” she said. “We want to make sure it doesn’t go to the landfill.”

“Reducing the impact on the environment has a direct impact on health,” said Intermountain Sustainability Director Glen Garrick. “Last year the Governor made a proclamation on water conservation. We joined in that and continue to do so. Every dollar in water saved goes straight to patient care.”

 “Everything we touch touches a patient,” said Thurston. “We want them to be warm and comfortable. It helps with the healing process. It’s like a hug from my team to all the patients.”